Freed British oil worker 'safe'

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The Independent Online

A kidnapped British oil worker was enjoying his first full day of freedom today after being released from nine months in captivity in Nigeria.

Matthew Maguire was said to be "safe" after his captors let him go yesterday, ending an ordeal which began in September last year when he was seized from a supply vessel off the Nigerian coast.

His release was confirmed last night by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in a statement issued by 10 Downing Street.

Mr Brown said: "I am pleased to confirm the safe release of Matthew Maguire, the British oil worker kidnapped in Nigeria on September 9 2008.

"This news comes a great relief to all concerned, and I am glad that, for Mr Maguire and his family and friends, this ordeal is over. I should like to thank all those who have worked so hard on this case.

"We remain in close contact with the family and I urge the media to respect their privacy at this time."

Mr Maguire and 26 other workers were taken from the oil supply vessel when it was hijacked off the coast near Port Harcourt.

The majority of the crew were later released but Mr Maguire and fellow Briton Robin Hughes, 59, remained hostages of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend).

Ship captain Mr Hughes, originally from St Margaret's Bay, near Dover, Kent, was freed in April and at the start of this month Mend said they hoped to release Mr Maguire shortly, in honour of his 35th birthday.

The Foreign Office last night declined to comment on the circumstances of Mr Maguire's release, or to say whether he remained in Nigeria, though a spokeswoman did say the oil worker had spoken to his family since being freed.

Asked if he was fit and well, she said: "He has obviously just come through what must have been a tremendously traumatic experience and we would ask everyone to respect his privacy."

In January, Mend militants released pictures of Mr Hughes and Mr Maguire, who were shown wearing shorts and flip-flops, looking dishevelled but not injured, in what appeared to be a thick forest.

Last night Mend reportedly announced in an email that Mr Maguire had been handed over to Nigerian government officials.

There have been hundreds of kidnappings in the southern Niger Delta in recent years.